radionz.co.nz – Two Indonesian army officers have been arrested for allegedly killing two men and injuring two others in Papua region.

The Jakarta Post reports that conflicting details have emerged over what exactly happened, but the victims have been identified as Imanuel Mailmaur and Yulianus Okoare.

Soon after the incident, a Papua military spokesperson, Teguh Pudji Rahardjo, said the shooting happened when a soldier was attacked by a mob in Timika, prompting troops to fire into the crowd.

But the commander of the Merauke Regional Command, Brigadier General Supartodi, told the newspaper that the officers were drunk when they opened fire into the crowd, and have been arrested.

The Papua police chief, Brigadier General Paulus Waterpauw is currently in Timika to assist with the handling of the situation.

RadioNZ – Pacific churches have condemned the killing of two West Papuans in a shooting involving Indonesian soldiers last week.

They have called on regional leaders to speak out against summary killings, torture and human rights abuse in the Indonesian region.

The church says reports from Timika in Mimika Regency say a group of Special Forces troops shot dead two members of the Catholic Youth Group at the Cathedral Parish of the Three Kings in Timika.

At the time the Kamoro people were performing traditional rituals.

The Council says the soldiers, who were refused entry to the area, went to their barracks, returned with weapons and fired on the group.

The General Secretary of the Pacific Council of Churches, Rev Francois Pihaatae, says the killings were uncalled for and an indication of Indonesia’s contempt.

He says Pacific leaders have a duty to speak out, especially those who have invited Indonesia into the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

Indonesian soldiers and policemen deployed on the main Timika road to the Freeport mine
Indonesian soldiers and policemen deployed on the main Timika road to the Freeport mine Photo: AFP

The West Papua Morning Star flag
The West Papua Morning Star flag Photo: AFP

RadioNZ – Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights is to visit Indonesia’s Papua region this month to investigate the deaths of two Papuans allegedly shot by soldiers last week.

The Jakarta Post reports the commissioner Natalius Pigai has deplored the incident in Timika in which the civilians were killed and a number of ethnic Kamoro injured during a traditional ceremony at a church complex in Timika.

The commissioner also questioned President Joko Widodo’s commitments to immediately resolve human rights violations that continue to occur in Papua.

The victims were buried on Sunday and the paper reports they were shot dead when two soldiers arrived intoxicated at a party to honour a local tribesman.

The paper reports the Regional Military Command has apologised for the incident and says military tribunals will be organised to hear the charges against the perpetrators.

By Stefan Armbruster, SBS Australia

Australia’s nearest Pacific neighbours have taken the lead in trying to broker a peaceful future for Indonesia’s contested West Papuan provinces.

Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia’s FLNKS took the step at the 20th Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) summit in Honiara.

Since Indonesia took over the former Dutch colony in the 1960s, there has been a brutal conflict in West Papua that is estimated to have cost hundreds-of-thousands of lives.

The MSG leaders gave the West Papuan independence movement observer status, rejecting an application for full membership.

Indonesia has been an observer since 2011 and was upgraded to associated membership at the summit.

“The leaders approved the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) as an observer member under the regional and international category representing West Papuans living abroad,” said Solomon Islands prime minister and MSG chair Manasseh Sogavare.

“Associate membership is accorded to Indonesia representing the five Melanesian provinces in Indonesia. I have the greatest pleasure in welcoming them.”

The West Papuans were hoping for full membership of the MSG but accept observer status as a first step.

The Indonesians will be represented at the MSG by the governors of its five Papuan provinces.

“Building a strong Melanesia in the Pacific is certainly a desire for our every member country,” said PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill.

“For 53 years we have endured the most severe human rights violations, torture, killing rape, arbitrary detention. The lives of at least 500,000 have been taken.

“But ensuring this is done through a process where peace, progress and prosperity is ensured and sustained for all is a little bit more complicated.

“In this respect, this MSG meeting is one of the most important in the history of the group, particularly in ensuring the participation of all Melanesian people living in the provinces of Indonesia.”

With their first ever diplomatic recognition, the West Papuans wasted no time at the summit, also attended by Indonesia’s deputy foreign minister, to highlight their struggle.

“For 53 years we struggled on our own against the colonial ruler Indonesia,” said Octovianus Mote, secretary general of the ULMWP.

“For 53 years we have endured the most severe human rights violations, torture, killing rape, arbitrary detention. The lives of at least 500,000 have been taken.

“We might not be a full member of the MSG, but a door has opened to us. As observers, the MSG effectively recognised us as a country in waiting.”

“Let me assure you that Indonesia’s membership will bring benefits to each and every member of our esteemed organisation.”

Indonesia bitterly opposed the West Papuan application, saying it is the only true representative of its citizens.

“The MSG in 2007 state that MSG members fully respect the principles of international law governing relations between nations, including the principle of sovereignty, the equality of independence of all states and the non-interference in the domestic affairs of states,” Indonesia’s deputy foreign minister Dr A.M. Fachir told summit leaders.

“Let me assure you that Indonesia’s membership will bring benefits to each and every member of our esteemed organisation.”

Fiji’s prime minister spoke in support of Indonesia, after overseeing their entry into the MSG as observers in 2011.

“Fiji is convinced this is not just the only way to improve the situation for our Melanesian brothers and sisters in the West Papua, it is the only way,” said Voreqe Bainimarama.

“We also hope that as time progresses that those West Papuans that are outside Indonesia can become part of that engagement.

“We acknowledge that the United Liberation Movement of West Papua represents a significant body of opinion in the West Papua diaspora and also has the welfare of the West Papuan people at heart.”

The West Papuan and Indonesian status also means others like Australia’s Melanesian Torres Strait islanders can now also apply for membership.

West Papuans said they will again seek full-membership at the next Melanesian Spearhead Group meeting in two years time.

John Momis re-elected as Bougainville president, securing more than 50pc of votes

PACIFIC BEAT BY PACIFIC AFFAIRS REPORTER LIAM FOX

PHOTO John Momis shakes hands with acting Bougainville electoral commissioner George Manu after being re-elected as president of the Autonomous region. TWITTER: BOUGAINVILLE NEWS
PHOTO John Momis shakes hands with acting Bougainville electoral commissioner George Manu after being re-elected as president of the Autonomous region.
TWITTER: BOUGAINVILLE NEWS

John Momis has been re-elected president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, gaining around half of the votes.

He received 51,382 votes after leading the race since the start of week-long counting while his closest rival, Ismael Toroama, secured 18,466 votes.

Aloysius Laukai from New Dawn Radio told Pacific Beat Mr Momis had a distinct advantage due to his experience.

Voters were not in favour of a leadership change leading up to Bougainville’s upcoming referendum on independence in 2019.

“That’s why they were really supporting president Momis because they did not want newcomers, it takes time for them to learn the ropes of politics,” he said.

Mr Momis was declared the president-elect by Regional Returning Officer John Itanu, after defeating eight other candidates.

He has held the presidency for the past five years.

“He thanked the people and thanked the electoral commission and the candidates for making it a peaceful election,” Mr Laukai said, adding that the parliament would sit on June 15 which will also be inauguration day.

Former teacher Josephine Getsi became the first woman in Bougainville to win a seat in the election, considered a milestone win for the women of Bougainville.

The autonomous region of Papua New Guinea went to the polls on May 11, with vote counting across the island nearly completed.

A total of 342 candidates contested the election, which included 33 constituency seats, three reserved seats for women in parliament, three reserved for former combatants and the seat of president.

Bougainville election: Me’ekamui militia group backs incumbent president John Momis as voting continues
PHOTO John Momis, incumbent president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
PHOTO John Momis, incumbent president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

In a surprise move, the hardline Me’ekamui militia group has voiced its support for incumbent president John Momis in the election underway in Bougainville.

The autonomous region in Papua New Guinea will soon begin a five-year window during which it will hold a referendum on independence from the mainland.

The president elected in this vote will negotiate the terms and date of the referendum, part of a peace agreement signed after the civil war with PNG.

Of the nine presidential candidates, Mr Momis is the favourite to win when the results are announced next month.

The Me’ekamui militia, which controls access to the controversial Panguna mine, had thrown its support behind Mr Momis, who they said has promised to reserve seats for them in future governments.

“I declare that Momis has 100 per cent [support] from the people here and most of the Me’ekamui government,” Me’ekamui defence force commander Moses Pipilo said.

The office of Mr Momis, a former Catholic priest and one of the only candidates who is not an ex-combatant, did not confirm seats had been reserved for militia members.

The Me’ekamui government are the landowners of the Panguna copper mine, which closed in 1989 when environmental damage and compensation sparked the civil war.

‘Small hiccups’ in largely smooth week of voting

The ABC’s PNG correspondent Liam Cochrane, who is in Bougainville, described the Panguna polling station as “like time had left it behind”, with “lush jungle” beginning to take over the empty buildings left behind by the conflict.

But he said in the largely idyllic and conflict-free week of voting, there were “a few hiccups”.

He said people had complained that illiterate voters were being assisted by only one other person and were potentially being guided towards one candidate.

“A few people told us that what they wanted is for at least two people to help these illiterate voters cast their ballots and make it a more neutral process,” Cochrane said.

At some polling stations people turned up to vote but found their names were not on the electoral roll.

“This was particularly a problem in the polling station at Mabiri,” Cochrane told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat.

“Some of the international observers I spoke to said they turned up to find that 130-odd were enrolled on the roll and only 17 females, so something clearly has gone very wrong with the roll there.

“And when voters turned up, others found the situation and simply turned around in disgust.”

There will be a further week of polling allowed for bad weather or other delays next week followed by a week of counting, with a similar contingency week.

A result is expected on June 8.

Source: http://mobile.abc.net.au/

Address by Hon. Peter O’Neill CMG MP, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea at the Lowy Institute for International Policy

Thank you, Dr Fullilove.

Member of the Diplomatic Corps,

Business Leaders,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

It is a pleasure to be invited once again to address the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

I want to begin by strongly affirming our support for the wide-ranging and very contemporary role the Lowy Institute plays in Papua New Guinea, and the wider Pacific.

 

Your role focuses on expanding issues including people-to-people relations, which I see as being the heart of the relations between countries in the region.

This afternoon, I would like to give you a better perspective on the some of the domestic policy advances that we are making Papua New Guinea which is bringing about change and stimulating development in our country.

Then provide you with insight on how we are growing regional and international role, including management of the foreign policy engagement with Australia and neighbours in the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Papua New Guinea is entering a period of change never experienced before. There are many contributing factors to this change. In large part, this can be found in the growth of our economy, the expansion of the middle class with new employment opportunities, and increasing disposable incomes that further feeds business growth.

As a result there is a renewed hope and confidence amongst our people about the future of Papua New Guinea.

This year, 2015 in particular, is a defining year for our country continues to chart our future.

This year of course we will celebrate 40 years of independence, and this is significant as we reflect upon our past and as we implement our plans for the years ahead.

It is fitting that this milestone year for us, is a year when the reforms that we have been implementing as a Government over the past 3 years can be seen to be taking root.

We are now more than halfway through the current Parliamentary term and year our Government is taking stock of progress we took to the elections in 2012.

The core policy measures that we announced in 2012 were simple in their design but they are very effective in enhancing the lives of our people.

 

We are seeing our substantially increased investment in Education at all levels including fee free education policy gaining acceptance through out the country.

Now we see 2 million children in school, which is nearly double the number from when we introduced the policy.

This increase has placed pressure on student-to-teacher ratios and number of

classrooms and other infrastructure in schools throughout the country. The Government has increased investment in teacher training facilities and is constructing additional educational infrastructure.

In the area of healthcare, our Government has increase spending to unprecedented levels as we deliver on our commitment of free universal healthcare.

Expenditure on healthcare in the 2015 budget was close to two billion Kina. We are seeing realistic delivery of health services both to urban and rural communities.

One of our other priorities was to improving law and order in our country. This is essential for us to move Papua New Guinea to the next level of development and prosperity.

The Government is spending considerable resources to modernise and better equip our police, judiciary and corrective services.

Australia is providing well-received support in this area – particularly with the partnership program we have with the Australian Federal Police.

We would like to take this program to the next level to extend placement of our police personnel not on under a training arrangement, but in line positions within our own police force rather than an advisory role.

The fourth pillar of our policy program is revitalizing infrastructure development in our country. Our Government is investing substantial amounts of money in rebuilding neglected infrastructure in our country.

We are building new roads, bridges, airports and seaports, and the public buildings that are required to deliver public services.

Papua New Guineans are seeing changes and they are noticing that change.

Importantly, we are doing this not only in the larger urban areas, but also in remote rural areas.

We are, for example, building communications towers in remote areas so that we can have at least village-based access to the mobile telephones and the Internet services.

Our increased budgetary allocation to the districts and provinces are starting to produce positive outcomes both in terms of delivery of government services and infrastructure development.

Communities that did not see presence of and government in the past 40 years are seeing government today.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We also recognise the important leadership role that Papua New Guinea has in the Pacific Island communities.

It is important that we use our experience, as the biggest Pacific country, to provide linkages and support our Brothers and Sisters in the region.

Papua New Guinea is now providing direct support to our regional partners in

strengthening their economies, building infrastructure and investing in increased trade.

We have allocated 300 million Kina over five years and we are investing in these nations.

We have targeted areas like climate change, infrastructure and governance issues, and recently in Fiji we invested heavily in the conduct of the elections.

We have invested in infrastructure in Vanuatu, we given budget support to the Solomon Islands.

Papua New Guinea is engaging through multilateral forums to bring about change and reform in our region.

Two of the most important being the Pacific Islands forum as a means for direct regional engagement, and APEC to link the Pacific Islands to the broader Asia-Pacific community.

The Pacific Islands Forum remains the premier process for advancing Pacific Island economic development and cultural exchange – it has been for 43 years and it will continue to do so for decades to come.

The Forum not only provides an important opportunity for Island nations to share views, but through the Post Forum Dialogue we are able to engage as a group with important development partners including China, Japan, the United States and the European Union.

We are all aware of ongoing background discussion relating to membership of the Pacific Islands’ Forum.

As far as Papua New Guinea is concerned there will is no requirement for a change in the structure of the membership.

As incoming Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, I am inviting the Leaders of all Member States to attend our meeting in September in Papua New Guinea.

The only way to play a part in the evolution of the Pacific Islands Forum – that is to take your seat at the table and speak direct to fellow leaders.

As the Chair, we will lead a comprehensive agenda that will seek to better unite businesses, increase labour mobility, improving defences against climate change and strengthen cultural and trade relations within in our region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year will also brings about a great opportunity to engage the Melanesian people of Indonesia with the Pacific Islands countries – this process is beginning with the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

This is one of the most sensitive issues in our region today – and Papua New Guinea is engaging in a constructive manner with our friends in Indonesia – with respect and a shared sense of purpose.

This week, President Joko Widodo and I had the opportunity to share our views on issues relating to the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Discussion of these sensitive matters between our two countries is not new – but we are doing so with more frankness.

This is not a discussion about sovereignty – but is about a shared desire to ensure that there peace, stability and development for Melanesian people in Papua and West Papua.

In our meeting this week, Papua New Guinea has pledged its support for Indonesia to apply for an associate membership of MSG.

This application is now in the hands of our Melanesian nations to decide.

If this application is accepted, MSG will welcome a delegation agreed by the Governors of the five Melanesian provinces in Indonesia to attend Melanesian Spearhead Group meetings.

This will be historic and a new level of engagement and opportunity for economic and cultural relations with more than 11 million Melanesians in Indonesia.

Together with the rest MSG countries, Melanesian people exceed the total population of Australia. This is not insignificant population and their welfare and their wellbeing is of paramount importance to Papua New Guinea.

2015 is a significant year for Papua New Guinea’s engagement, in both an economic and cultural context, and it is part of a very busy events schedule for the nation.

Most notable in the coming months we will be hosting the 15th Pacific Games in Port Moresby this July.

We are anticipating that this will be the most memorable in the history of the Pacific Games.

Hosting the Games has provided an opportunity to focus on a good deal of the infrastructure upgrade that is underway in Port Moresby and throughout the country.

We have included almost 2.5 billion Kina worth of road infrastructure development all throughout the nation today.

More major sporting events are planned for Papua New Guinea in the coming years, a highlight of which is the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2016.

Teams from 16 countries will be take part in the tournament that will take place in stadiums in Lae, Kokopo and Port Moresby.

The largest of the upcoming events is the APEC meeting that will take place in 2018.

The APEC Leaders’ Summit is scheduled to held in Port Moresby on 17-18 November in 2018.

Hosting APEC is an enormous logistical and policy challenge, with an anticipated 200 APEC related meetings due to take place in Papua New Guinea before the summit.

Planning has been underway for some time and we are on track.

At the policy level, the APEC Secretariat is coordinated out of the Department of Prime Minister and National Executive Council.

In terms of logistics, Parliament approved the creation of an APEC Coordination Authority that is now in place.

The Authority is laying the foundations for logistical requirements and related budget projections to deliver an effective APEC year.

We are also working in consultation with our partners, especially Australia, in security related capacity building and training which will make sure we have a very successful APEC meeting.

Papua New Guinea also continues to strengthen relations and partnerships with APEC members at a bilateral level.

This is particularly the case with the Peoples’ Republic of China and Japan – as major players in the global economy and key destination for Papua New Guinean exports including LNG.

Ladies and Gentlemen, An issue that been the subject of discussion relates to the operation and future of the Regional Processing Centre.

Papua New Guinea has played an important part in stemming people smuggling in our region. This dangerous trade has cost countless lives lost at sea.

We are now facilitating the processing of refugee applications. To date, 129 applicants have been deemed to be genuine refugees and are being offered the opportunity to live in Papua New Guinea.

Over 400 refugees have voluntarily left Papua New Guinea.

There has been criticism at the time taken to transition refugees from Manus to their new lives is taking too long.

We have an obligation to explain this to Papua New Guineans, and to the refugees, as they make this transition so the can be included in our communities.

There has been so much negative news about the Asylum Seekers in Australian, which is then rebroadcast in Papua New Guinea, that there is concern about refugees coming to live in our communities.

Our Government has the job of explaining that to our people and the genuine refugees will be welcomed by our people in their respective communities.

We are currently undertaking extensive public awareness and stakeholder engagement in areas where refugees will be resettled.

This is done to remove the stigma that has been established.

It is also important that refugees are taught our language and our cultural so that they are aware of their obligations when they live within our communities.

We are confident that these refugees will bring skills and experience that will be of value to our nation building, will be resettling them very soon.

Ladies and Gentlemen, In September we will celebrate four decades of Independence in Papua New Guinea.

Our bilateral relationship with Australia is in very good shape, probably in better shape and more harmonious than at any time since Independence.

We are told that the Australian Government will reduce development assistance to Papua New Guinea by around 5% in the 2015-16 Australian budget. And, we do understand the budgetary constraints faced by Australia, and we will sit down and work with the Australian Government to reprioritise the development program However, in Australian budget documents we were shocked to learn that the Australian Government plans to establish a diplomatic post on Bougainville.

As we all know, Bougainville is an integral part of Papua New Guinea and there are clear historical sensitivities around Bougainville that must be appreciated.

Especially the sensitivities that are on Bougainville when there is an election going on.

I want to say that there has been no consultation on this proposal and there is no agreement to proceed.

As we respect territorial integrity of others, we expect other to respect us as well.

Next week I will be speaking at the annual gathering of Papua New Guinean and  Australian business councils in Lae.

I will be using that opportunity to make suggestions on how we can address some of our bilateral relationship issues, but more importantly on strengthen our business, investment and trade relationships.

In summary, our wide ranging relationship is in good shape……but it must never be taken for granted, especially as we celebrate four decades of what has been a harmonious, and I believe mutually beneficial, association.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The future of Papua New Guinea is very bright, there is great expectation on the part of our people, and from the international community.

We are moving on from the past and embracing the opportunities of the future.

Through hard work and determination, we will continue to build a strong Papua New Guinea.

I thank you for your partnership, and I thank your for your attendance today and thank you for your interest in the development of our nation.

 

Thank you.

Source: https://www.lowyinstitute.org

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill unhappy at Australian move over Bougainville

Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has sharply criticised Australia for planning to set up a diplomatic post in PNG’s breakaway province of Bougainville without consulting his government.

But Foreign Minister Julie Bishop insists Australia’s high commissioner did provide notice of the move.

Mr O’Neill claimed PNG had no advance warning of the decision, which was tucked into the detail of this week’s federal budget papers.

“It’s not something that we want to wake up one morning and read in the papers,” he said on Thursday after delivering an address to the Lowy Institute in Sydney.

“There has been no understanding about the sensitivities on the ground, especially with the [local] elections that are going on there now.”

Bougainville was the scene of a bloody civil war between secessionist forces and the PNG Defence Force in the early 1990s, with an uneasy peace deal delivering the island semi-autonomous status.

Bougainvilleans have been promised a referendum on full independence sometime in the next five years. But Mr O’Neill said PNG still viewed the large, resource-rich island as “an integral part of Papua New Guinea”.

“As we respect the territorial integrity of others, we expect others to respect ours,” he said, adding that Port Moresby had not agreed to Canberra’s plan.

Ms Bishop said Australia had a “significant and growing development program in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville” and that she had discussed a second post in PNG during her visit there last December.

Mr O’Neill also played down criticism that his government had been slow to resettle refugees from the Australian-run detention facility at Manus Island.

Labor’s immigration spokesman Richard Marles​ recently labelled the failure to resettle any refugees beyond Manus a “disgrace” but Mr O’Neill said more than 130 applicants had been deemed genuine and would be resettled “very very soon”.

He said “negative news” about asylum seekers in Australia had been rebroadcast in PNG, requiring the government to undertake an “extensive public awareness” campaign to “remove the stigma” surrounding the issue.

“It is also important that we teach the refugees our languages, our culture, so that they are aware of their obligations when they live within our communities,” he argued.

“We are confident that these refugees will bring skills and experience that will be of value to our nation building.”

Asked if that process might take years, he responded that it would take “weeks to months”.

Challenged about his controversial decision last year to cease funding PNG’s highly effective anti-corruption unit known as Task Force Sweep, Mr O’Neill said its work would be replaced by a new Independent Commission Against Corruption, yet to be established.

Overall, Mr O’Neill said relations with Australia were as good as they had been since independence was granted by Canberra 40 years ago.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says the “welfare and wellbeing” of Melanesians, including the more than 11 million Melanesian inhabitants of Indonesia, is of “paramount importance to Papua New Guinea”.

But he says he is “engaging in a constructive manner” with Indonesia on the touchy subject of West Papua and Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya.

He told the Lowy Institute he had discussed the issue with “frankness” in a recent meeting with Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo​ and that it “continues to be one of the most sensitive issues in our … relations today”.

The discussion was not about sovereignty, he added, but about the “shared desire to ensure that there is peace, stability and development for Melanesian people in Papua and West Papua”.

Mr O’Neill said PNG would support Indonesia being granted associate membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, through a delegation of governors of the five Melanesian provinces of Indonesia.

But proponents of West Papuan independence are critical of the plan.

Mr O’Neill said “we would love to have a united voice [inside the MSG] for all of West Papua but unfortunately there are many groupings. The only legitimate people who represent West Papua today are the elected leaders and they are the governors of those provinces.”

He said currently PNG had “no visibility of what is happening in West Papua” and this would be a “major step by Indonesia to allow this process”.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/

West Papua issue stirs during Jokowi’s PNG visit

The thorny issue of West Papua has stirred controversy during a state visit by Indonesia’s President, Joko Widodo, to Papua New Guinea.

Indonesia's Papua region: the provinces of West Papua and Papua

Indonesia’s Papua region: the provinces of West Papua and Papua Photo: RNZ

Mr Widodo left Port Moresby today after a two-day visit which saw allegations of media gagging and the arbitrary arrest of protesting West Papuan independence activists.

Joko Widodo’s plane touched down in Port Moresby on Monday, greeted by a 21-gun salute and military guard of honour. But outside the airport, a group was protesting Indonesian rule in the western half of New Guinea.

That protest was led by the PNG Union for a Free West Papua. Its general secretary, David Dom Kua, said police broke up the protest just before Mr Widodo touched down, and that he and six others were detained for several hours.

The group was later released without charge yet Mr Kua said their detention was illegal and an attempt to hide them from the visiting President.

“We are not in Indonesia, we are in Papua New Guinea,” he said. “This is our own country, we are stepping on our own soil and our own laws and so if there is any political interference or influence whatsoever, how can the police or our government think they can do what the Indonesian government has been doing?”

Gary Juffa, PNG

Gary Juffa, PNG Photo: Supplied

The Oro Governor and MP, Gary Juffa, explained that the PNG Union for a Free West Papua had obtained a court order allowing them to protest, but they were detained arbitrarily. He felt Waigani had been quick to try and please Jakarta by clamping down on peaceful protest.

“We can’t allow Indonesia to extend their authoritarian rule into Papua New Guinea which is what seems to be happening,” said Governor Juffa.

“In instances when Indonesians visit or when Indonesian officials are here then there’s a gag on the media, there’s all the military persons, the people are controlled, it’s as if we are a province of Indonesia.”

The independence aspiration of West Papuans remains a sensitive issue for Indonesia, and one that Papua New Guinea governments have stayed silent on for many years. However growing public concern about reported rights abuses across the border and a geopolitical storm over a West Papuan move for greater regional representation have ensured the PNG government cannot ignore the issue.

A major West Papuan representative organisation is currently applying for membership of the regional Melanesian Spearhead Group, and appears to have the backing of Vanuatu and New Caledonia’s FLNKS. It remains to be seen where Solomon Islands and the MSG’s two biggest members, PNG and Fiji, stand on the matter.

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua’s application will be the special focus of an MSG members’ meeting next week, before a possible decision on the bid at the leaders’ summit in Honiara in July. Mr Widodo’s visit came as Indonesia’s diplomatic overtures to Melanesian countries reached top levels, prompting the ULM to argue that the visit was to try and pressure PNG to not support the West Papuan MSG bid.

PNG PM Peter O'Neil and Indonesia president Joko Widodo Photo: supplied
PNG PM Peter O’Neil and Indonesia president Joko Widodo Photo: supplied

But at a state dinner for Mr Widodo, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said he wants to welcome Melanesian brothers and sisters from West Papua to the MSG, but it must be done with endorsement from Jakarta.

RNZI’s correspondent in Port Moresby, Todagia Kelola, said the topic was off-limits to media at a breakfast on Tuesday, where Mr Widodo spoke about strengthening economic ties between the two countries and only slightly alluded to West Papua.

“He said the visit in Papua New Guinea provides an opportunity to strengthen ties in both countries. And despite not commenting on the West Papua issue Mr Widodo seeks to ensure that closer relations is far more important for the benefit for the people in Indonesia especially the 11 million melanesians in Indonesia.”

Before leaving the country, the leaders of both countries signed new agreements to cooperate in the development of petroleum and energy resources and to prevent transnational crime. At the airport ahead of his departure, however, was another group of West Papua activists burning the Indonesian flag.